City partnership helps bring bike share to Roxbury

Kendra Graves | 10/26/2011, 9:37 a.m.
The Hubway bike station in Dudley Square is located across from the MBTA’s Dudley Station and the historic Ferdinand...
The Hubway bike station in Dudley Square is located across from the MBTA’s Dudley Station and the historic Ferdinand building. Kendra Graves

“We’ve realized that one connection around encouraging people to be active is that they first have to feel safe,” Kelly said. “We know that there are hot spots in this community where people don’t feel safe, and sometimes that has very much to do with the built environment.”

She described Complete Streets as a redesign process where “streets are planned in such a way that all users have safe access.” This means considering the many different populations and age groups — from children and seniors, to pedestrians pushing carts and carriages and people in wheelchairs.

She pointed out that the popularity of the bike share program could have a significant influence on the upcoming redesign of Melnea Cass Boulevard, one of Roxbury’s busiest thoroughfares.

“The team of us advocates are working together to identify ways that the built environment of our neighborhood, especially the Dudley Square area and in the Melnea Cass Boulevard area, do not encourage people to be physically active, do not encourage people to walk, to bike, to feel safe when using public transit,” she said.

In the meanwhile, Madison Park will continue to work closely with BPHC to help promote the bike share to local residents. BPHC has more than 500 membership discounts available that must be spoken for by March 2012; to date, only 50 residents have signed up for the subsidized membership.

And with the Hubway system slated to shut down for the winter in November, the two organizations were anxious to encourage the advocates in attendance to tell their clients and colleagues about the program.

Still, some at the meeting were concerned that Hubway’s confusing membership terms would discourage people from maintaining a membership or joining at all. When one advocate insisted that unclear rental terms opened the door for new members to rack up unwanted rental charges they can’t afford, Hubway marketing specialist Ian Sanders-Fleming admitted that the bike share had a “relatively complicated pricing system,” and said the company was working on affixing tags with the rental rates to payment kiosks and bikes.

Also at issue for some was the lack of Hubway stations in the Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan areas, which some people pointed out made it difficult to make the kind of short trips the bike share program is typically intended to provide.

Though the bike share was designed so that stations are no further than two to four hundred meters from each other, as of now, there are only six Hubway stations in the areas where much of Boston’s low-income communities of color reside. All the stations are in Roxbury and are averaging around 11 trips per day.

De La Rosa encouraged the organizers to remind their clients that their involvement and voice would be key to making Hubway a viable transportation option in their communities.

“I think that community advocacy’s very important to make sure the bike stations make it out to all the neighborhoods. [That’s] why it’s even more critical that our Roxbury stations work, because it’s an example that this can work in [urban] neighborhoods.”